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Swale

Mary Mattingly

Growing or picking food in New York City’s public land has been off-limits for almost a century for fear that a glut of foragers may destroy an ecosystem. Swale is an experiential and co-educational edible landscape built on a hopper barge that utilizes marine common law in order to circumvent local public land laws. In this way, Swale is able to dock adjacent to public land and allow people to pick edible and medicinal perennial plants grown onboard for free. While working to shift policies that will increase the presence of edible perennial landscapes, Swale strengthens stewardship of public waterways and land. At Swale, we believe that when treated as a commons, food production can be less polluting, and food access can be more just.

Details

What if healthy, fresh food could be a free public service, and not just an expensive commodity? That’s the question we really want to ask with Swale. Swale, a collaborative floating food project, is dedicated to rethinking and challenging New York City's connection to our environment. Built on a 130-foot by 40-foot floating platform, Swale contains an edible forest garden. Functioning as both a sculpture and a tool, Swale provides free healthy food at the intersection of public art and service. With Swale, we want to reinforce water as a commons, and work towards fresh food as a commons too.

A mobile, floating food forest, Swale will dock at several piers, beginning in Concrete Plant Park, the Bronx, and then stopping at piers throughout New York City’s harbor for less than one month at a time. During public hours, people may visit Swale and pick fresh raspberries, huckleberries, kales, beets, chard, arugula, leeks, artichokes, and other perennially grown food sources.  With zero runoff, Swale cleans and utilizes 55 gallons of river water a day to augment a rainwater collection system and aid plant growth. Swale launches its journey in June 2016, navigates down the East River, explores the waters of New York’s Upper Bay, and will dock at public and private piers for one month at a time.

A 40 foot by 130 foot flat deck barge features a main and a second emergency gangway entrance, railings, walkways, and an edible forest garden that uses rainwater and purified, desalinated river water. Swale is structured as a floating island for:  (i) community activities and artistic events; (ii) eco-initiatives including food grown with purified water from the East and Bronx Rivers. As an experiential artwork, Swale catalyzes and showcases public food, grown on the aquatic verges of the urban environment.